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Sociology Research


Mahvish Ahmad is a doctoral student writing a history and ethnography of state violence on the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. She is also the co-convener of the Cambridge Critical Theory & Practice Seminar Series and the co-founder and co-convener of the Critical Pakistan Research Cluster at Cambridge with Arif Naveed (Cambridge).

Alongside her doctoral degree, Mahvish Ahmad is an independent journalist and political organiser. In 2012, she co-founded Tanqeed, a magazine of politics and culture with Madiha Tahir (Columbia). Prior to joining Cambridge, she reported for CS Monitor (US), BBC/PRI The World, Danish Broadcasting Corporation (Denmark), TV2 (Denmark), The Independent, Dawn (Pakistan), The Herald (Pakistan), Caravan (India), CBC (Canada) and others. Mahvish also taught at the Lahore University of Mangement Sciences (Pakistan) and Quaid-e-Azam University (Pakistan). Beforehand she had worked in consulting, international development, and the non-profit sector in Copenhagen, New York, Washington DC, London, and Islamabad.

Research Interests

Mahvish Ahmad explores the history of sovereign violence and the punitive arm of the state on the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. Tracing the history of extraordinary violence on frontier populations, she attempts to unpack the place of violence in forming and governing this territory and its subjects. Her research includes close readings of a colonial-era military expedition and everyday legalised violence through a fine-grained study of the 1918 aerial bombardment and military expedition during the Marri-Khetran Uprising in north-eastern Balochistan and a careful analysis of cases tried under the Murderous Outrages Act in the late 19th and early 20th century which differentiated between 'ordinary' and 'fanatical' murder. She moves on to punitive operations under the early postcolonial state – in the period before the take-over of Pakistan's second military ruler – focusing specifically on a counterinsurgency campaign launched in the early 1970s alongside dismissals of sitting provincial governments and conspiracy trials against opposition politicians. Her research ends with an ethnographic study of contemporary violence in the post-9/11 era, where she investigates violence at its point of effect, and argues that it produces an andha dhund – a blind and directionless fog – that makes it difficult for counter-hegemonic coalitions to emerge against the violence of the state.



SOC11: Racism, Race and Ethnicity

Undergraduate Course Supervion:

SOC3: Modern Societies II: Global Social Problems and Dynamics of Resistance

SOC8: Religion and Contentious Mobilization

SOC11: Racism, Race and Ethnicity

Key Publications - Book Chapters

Ahmad, M. (2011). Balochistan Betrayed. In V. Prashad, M. Tahir, & Q. B. Memon, Dispatches from Pakistan. Delhi: LeftWord Press.

Key Publications - Journal Articles

Ahmad, M. & Mehmood, R. (2017): Surveillance, Authoritarianism, and ‘Imperial Effects’ in Pakistan, Surveillance and Society.

Caron, J. & Ahmad, M. (2015): Activism, knowledge and publishing: some views from Pakistan and Afghanistan, South Asian History and Culture.

Key Publications - Other

Ahmad, Mahvish. 15 May 2017. "On Feminism’s Fragile Army". In The New Inquiry, Vol. 60, "Shame."

Ahmad, Mahvish (with Madiha Tahir). 4 June 2016. "Drone Blowback is a Bad Argument. Here's Why." Warscapes

Ahmad, Mahvish (with Madiha Tahir). 2 March 2016. "The Law of the Father." The News

Ahmad, Mahvish. 1 July 2014. "Home Front. The Changing Face of Balochistan's Separatist Insurgency." The Caravan.

Ahmad, Mahvish. November 2013. "Between the Earthquakes and the War." Tanqeed | a magazine of politics and culture.

Ahmad, Mahvish. 2012. "Quetta Divisions." In Critical Muslim, Issue 4, "Pakistan?"

Ahmad, Mahvish. 29 March 2013. "Pakistan Shrine Celebrates Love of Two Men." BBC/PRI The World

Ahmad, Mahvish. 2012. "Kærlighed og Seksualitet i Pakistan." [Series on love and sexuality in Pakistan]. Orientering. Danish Broadcasting Corporation

Grants and Projects

Ahmad, M. Cambridge Commonwealth, European & International Trust, Cambridge European Scholarship, 2014-2017, University and College Fees. 

Ahmad, M. Department of Sociology, Graduate Education Committee Funding, 2014-2017, Maintenance.

PhD Supervisor

Research Groups & Affiliations


Crown Prince Frederik Scholarship

Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Fulbright Commission (2006)

Rudolph Als Fondet, Harvard Kennedy School of Government (2006)

Knud Højgård, Harvard Kennedy School of Government (2006)

Job Title:
PhD Candidate, Robinson College